November 29, 2018

Our permanence is in the stories we create - a talk with rapper Al Agami

Our permanence is in the stories we create - a talk with rapper Al Agami

Irene Martinez Luna
Mihaela Yordanova


Some weeks ago, the Denmark-based rapper and actor Al Agami joined forces with Mute State, aka Tao Højgaard, to create a Low-Fi first. A concert entirely inspired by a book. “The Gold Bug Variations” by Richard Powers was chosen by the host and the audience in the beginning of the show, to be then interpreted by Tao and Al. We already had a talk with Tao about the philosophy behind his music, so we just had to catch up with Al as well. Thanks to our videographer Irene, you can also watch footage from the night.


Tell us more about this concept?

Al: There are two things in this concept. One is, of course, the intimacy factor. You are so close; it is like a “one-to-one” situation. I am a meter away from the first row and you can actually look eye to eye, so in that way it’s a very intimate space.

And the other thing is that we don’t know what book is going to be chosen. But we know that books are stories: someone is trying to express something and touch us. My slow chant rant tonight was about that —  we already know the stories, all the codes are universal. You know when to be scared or when to laugh. And these same codes are transplanted to any art which uses storytelling. So, if you deconstruct a manuscript, you’ll notice that they are made with exactly the same codes. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. You have a first plot point and then a second and, mathematically, the two points are within the first third of the story. If you have a three-minute song and you are making a linear story, within the first 30 seconds you already know what’s it about. Or if it’s a storyteller, “Once upon a time…” people don’t care that it’s a cliché, it just means that someone is telling a story. And they are all stories we know, because they are based on feelings.

But when it comes to the music part, it’s how do you deal with stuff that you are meeting for the first time, the first impression. So, we jam a vibe for the first impression: the cover of the book, the title, what do we know about the writer, and after that all bets are off. You just need a starting point and the concept can begin.

What is your take on the intimate concert format?

Al: The idea of intimate concerts is very important, because it takes people like me out of the house. Now I actually want to go and see concerts. All the stress is removed; the crowds, the queuing and all that. And for example, when there are only 12 people, there is a reverence. That means we congregate, we come together and we are there for the same reason: to listen. It’s sort of an open rehearsal. It’s a room of nakedness, but respectful nakedness. It’s completely different.

And right now, I am in a place that feels like home, even though it is someone else’s home. Because I feel invited and everybody is here for something important.


What was it like to be so close to the audience today?

Al: I’ve been in the audience at an intimate concert before and that was actually more nerve-racking for me. When I am performing, I feel like I am in control. But when I am on the other side, and I am so close to the performer, I could reach out and touch them or something. I could break the format, because we are actually sharing the same stage as a performer and audience.


And finally, why does music matter?

Al: If I may quote Bob Marley, or paraphrase him; “Music is the only thing, when it hits you, it doesn’t hurt”. For me music is medicine, there is stuff I do that music relieves. I am a man of words, but I found out that if I mix words with music, they create meaning for me. They become reminders of where I have been, what do I need to do. I am talking to myself. In public.

The stuff I release, it should always be able to speak for itself and speak after I am gone. So, that people keep telling my stories. Like a link in a chain. Our physical existence is fleeting, our permanence is in the stories we tell.

This interview was edited and shortened for clarity. For updates, you can follow Al Agami on Facebook and you can listen to his music on Spotify.

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